MELBOURNE, Fla. — A Palm Bay teacher has been fired after biting one of her special needs students at Columbia Elementary in 2015.
The Brevard County School Board voted to fire Karen Williams, a third-grade teacher at Columbia, at a meeting Tuesday night, effectively canceling her professional service contract with the district. The board did not discuss the decision at the meeting.
Williams was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 3, 2015, after biting one of her students on the back. The child told investigators that Williams grabbed him and put him in a "bear hug" so he tried to get away. To get free, the student bit Williams on her right hand and then Williams bit him on his back "for like a minute" at which point the student bit Williams again on the hand, according to a police report.
An eyewitness heard the student "screaming hysterically" over the front office phone, and when she got to the classroom she found him crying with an oval-shaped red mark on his back.
Students in the classroom at the time couldn't say definitively they saw Williams bite their classmate, but said they did see her pull him into a tight hug and heard the student yelling "my back, my back."
Williams denied the allegations, but police found an adult-sized bite mark on his back below the left shoulder blade, as well as fingernail markings along his right side.
She was arrested by the Palm Bay Police Department on Dec. 10, 2015, and charged with child abuse, a felony in the state of Florida. Staff from the Florida Department of Education was also brought in to investigate the incident.
Up until that point, Williams had been regularly rated a "highly effective" teacher in her annual evaluations.
Under a professional service contract, as opposed to the annual contracts that are used now, teachers can only be dismissed for unsatisfactory evaluations, gross insubordination, willful neglect of duties or conviction of a moral crime.